A sleek glossy black Pontiac Firebird Trans Am adorned with a red scanning bar on the nose is immediately recognized by many who grew up during the 1980s. Knight Industries Two Thousand or K.I.T.T. was a car and part of a crime fighting dual starring alongside David Hasselhoff in the hit television show Knight Rider.
The futuristic talking car, voiced by William Daniels, had artificial intelligence, drove autonomously, used geographical tagging and communicated through a com-link enabled watch with his crime-fighting partner Michael Knight.
Gary Hunter was a huge fan of the show as a kid of the eighties. “I was about 13 years old when Knight Rider was on television,” he said. “I was a huge fan. I purchased a 1991 Pontiac Firebird (Trans Am?) brand new and converted it into the iconic super star K.I.T.T.”
Hunter, who now works for American Forces Network, Broadcast Center, a tenant organization of March Air Reserve Base, was working at a Television Station in San Diego at the time he purchased the Firebird. One day he stopped by the dealership and spotted the Trans-Am on the showroom floor. “It reminded me of the car from the show and I had to get it,” he said.
He drove his Firebird for 10 years before deciding to convert it into a K.I.T.T. replica. Hunter started his modifications with the nose opening for the red scanner. He then found the correct rims and hubcaps and swapped out the taillights. The front seats and dash were put in next followed by the new steering wheel. It took about eight years to complete the transformation before he received the ultimate compliment for his efforts.
“I met the creator of the Knight Rider TV show, Glen Larson, before he passed,” explained Hunter. “He loved how I recreated the car.”
The original K.I.T.T. from the show was a 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am but Hunter’s car is a 1991 year model. The car from 1982 to 1992 basically had the same body style but the newer model was a better, more mechanically reliable version of the original car, explained Gary.
After the conversion, Hunter joined an all Knight Rider car club. He showed the car at charity events in Los Angeles and San Diego and helped raise money for a children's hospital. “My favorite event was in 2010 in Las Vegas,” he explained. “It was the Knight Rider Festival. Replica K.I.T.T. car's from all over the United States came to Las Vegas to celebrate the show and raise money for a hospital.”
Hunter is proud of his charity work but there’s another reason he loves his hobby. “I think the biggest enjoyment besides having fun driving the car would be all the smiles it brings to people that remember the show and now get to see the car again after all these years,” he smiled.
Hunter dreams of the day K.I.T.T. will return to mainstream America. “I would love to see my car featured in a remake of the Knight Rider show,” he said. “There have been talks of a feature movie too. I would love to see it on the big screen.”
Some of the technologies K.I.T.T. featured back in the 80's such as GPS, hands free phone calls, security monitors to view video, back up camera's and self-driving cars have come to fruition. But even with today’s technology, Hunter insists K.I.T.T. and its crime fighting abilities is truly a super car of the future.
Although the world might one day see a real crime-fighting-A.I. car, Hunter considers the underlying message more important. “One quote I always loved from the show was “One Man can Make a Difference,” he said. “I think in life we can all make a difference in our world whether it's at work or in our communities.”